Last Sunday talks – with Avedis Hadjian and Chaghig Filian

On  24th March 2019,  the Centre for Armenian Information and Advice in London, hosted an event which included two separate talks by both Avedis Hadjian and Chaghig Filian. The talks were the final ones on the series about the History of Armenian Culture, History and Heritage. The first by Avedis was about hidden Armenians in Turkey and his experiences with them during his travels to the country. And the second by Chaghig, was about language practices among Lebanese Armenians and their  community attitudes.

Avedis’s talk focused on groups such as the Hamshen and Alevies, which he had encountered on his journey through Turkey and tried to find out more about their potential Armenian roots. Avedis had not formally known that the existence of hidden Armenians was even a possibility, so when he first heard about them he was determined to travel to Turkey in order to seek them out any way he could.

The Hemshin are a very noteworthy group which he looked at. What’s interesting about them is that compared to hidden Armenians, the Hemshin had been converted to Islam hundreds of years before the majority of other islamised Armenians in Turkey, but despite this due to their isolated homeland in the high mountains of the Black sea coast, they have astonishingly managed to hold onto their ancient Armenian culture and language dialect.

The second talk by Chaghig looked at the differences between Armenians living in Bourj Hammoud (the Armenian enclave in Beirut, Lebanon) and Armenians living outside of Bourj Hammoud, with their attitudes towards speaking Western Armenian. This asked questions such as the importance of speaking Armenian to them, or how important was it for people to send their children to Armenian schools. The data was then compared to show the differences (or similarities) between the two groups of Armenians living in Lebanon.

You can also read Chaghig’s in-depth and fascinating dissertation in full online: The impact of residential location on language practices among Lebanese Armenian adolescents: An investigation into the Western Armenian language in Lebanon

By Aren Berberian, a CAIA volunteer who run the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia blog